Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Silver State Blazes Gold

By Brian Beffort

Friends of Nevada Wilderness Stewardship trips have taken me into the North Black Rock Range and the Pine Forest Range for years. Each of these mountain ranges hides majestic aspen stands you cannot see from the highway. Glorious, cool and quaking in summer, with emerald leaves and burbling streams bouncing over the rocks.

But to see them in fall--ablaze with gold, orange, even red--is one of the fairest views Nevada affords. Luckily, on the weekend of October 16-17, I was lucky enough to coincide my trip with a blaze of color.

These But they're so darn remote, the roads are rough; and an unlucky brush with a winter storm could leave me stranded deep in the mountains. Lucky again, I enjoyed warm, calm days and nights--just in time as the first fierce winter storm howls outside as I type.

Two hours of dirt north of Gerlach, Mahogany Creek rises from Summit Lake into the northern drainages of the North Black Rock Range. In this small watershed lives the purest-remaining strain of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. In fact, when the LCT died out in Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River, replacement fish were relocated from Summit Lake. Stradling this stream rarely deeper than a few inches, I had trouble imagining 12 and 20-inch fish swimming up over these rocks to spawn.

Somewhere in the combination of shorter days and colder nights of autumn, deciduous leaves pull the cyhlorophyll out of their leaves and beging shutting down for winter. The sugars that remain can turn brilliant colors.

The next range to the northwest likes the Pine Forest Range, which rises to 9,377 feet. The Blue Lakes and Alder Creek wilderness study areas comprise about 25,000 acres of forested slopes, cool lakes, stunning granite outcrops and yes, more aspen.

On Monday morning, October 18, the Humboldt County Commission voted unanimously to support wilderness. It was a wonderful feeling to enjoy my morning cup of coffee while taking these pictures, knowing that a bunch of people from diverse backgrounds put aside all other possible disagreements to agree that this beautiful place deserves to be protected as wilderness. In this age of negative advertising and partisan politics, t's not often we see people come together like that. It's what makes America great. That's good news, by any measure.

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